By on June 21, 2019

us-capitol, public domain

Capitol Hill was the scene of some high-school drama this week after representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reportedly refused to sit at the same table while discussing fueling regulations with the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

As petty as this seems, it illustrates the overall situation rather well. White House officials terminated talks with California in February, citing an inability to progress the debate. Meanwhile, CARB has been claiming the Trump administration doesn’t want to hear its case and has instead sought to strip the state of its ability to self regulate in order to pass reforms that would freeze national emissions standards at 2020 levels though 2026.

Thursday’s congressional bickering helped paint a clearer picture of what the communications breakdown looked like.  (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2019

The United Auto Workers is spending Thursday telling Congress that the union opposes the Trump administration’s proposal to freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026… sort of. While the UAW expressed moderate environmental concerns in the past, most of its opposition to the rollback has revolved around corporate investments into the industry. In fact, the union’s research arm called fuel economy the auto industry’s “future” in 2018.

This time around, the UAW seems to be singularly focused on business aspects. According to a prewritten testimony, UAW Legislative Director Josh Nassar intends to tell two subcommittees of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the union is in line with automakers’ concerns about the proposal leading to “protracted litigation and uncertainty in the industry that will limit growth.” (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2019

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee said it will schedule a hearing on June 20th regarding the Trump administration’s proposal to roll back automotive efficiency standards. The decision comes from Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Environment and Climate Change Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) — all of whom are in clear opposition to the suggested plan.

The groups will hold a joint hearing to discuss Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and carbon pollution regulations affecting light duty vehicles as they relate to the current administration’s plan to effectively freeze efficiency targets between 2020 to 2026.  (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2019

The automotive industry is in turmoil. There’s an industrywide push toward electrification that has yet to prove itself as truly profitable, volume seems to be tapering off in the developed world, and emissions regulations aimed at improving air quality are operating counter to existing consumer tastes. As a result, automakers are scrambling to find the best path forward.

In 2017, that path involved encouraging the new U.S. president to roll back Obama-era fuel economy mandates, thus providing some breathing room and staving off fines as automakers began to realize they wouldn’t be able to meet tightening targets. The administration listened, leading to a proposal that would effectively freeze mileage standards at about 37 miles per gallon — rather than the previously decided 54.5 mpg — by 2025.

However, California and a coalition of supportive states claim they won’t be going along for the ride. This group says it will maintain the old standards, regardless of what the White House says. The staredown has automakers worried; they’ve now banded together to issue a letter asking both sides to calm down and keep talking.  (Read More…)

By on March 6, 2019

The Trump administration has long been at odds with California and a coalition of supportive states that hope to block the rollback of Obama-era fueling regulations the current Environmental Protection Agency deems “unsustainable.” The EPA also says it’s inconsistent with consumer behavior. But automakers have behaved somewhat erratically on the matter, forcing the president to request (by proxy) that they make up their minds and pick a side before a final decision is made.

While industry leaders previously backed the more stringent regulatory framework set in place by the former president, they quickly converged on Washington after Trump assumed office in 2017, requesting a softening of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. After blowback from California and environmental activists, automakers took a more measured approach, publicly stating that they support green initiatives and reducing their own carbon footprint — and suggesting that a national deal be reached that pleases all parties.

Fence-sitting time might be over.
(Read More…)

By on November 14, 2018

The Trump administration was supposed to make an announcement Tuesday as to whether or not imported automobiles pose a national security risk, following discussions with trade representatives. While it wasn’t presumed that the White House would say anything truly definitive or hold a formal press conference on the issue, it was assumed that the president would take a stronger public stance either for or against an earlier proposal to raise foreign auto import tariffs to 25 percent. And it has, in a way.

According to those familiar with the matter, the White House decided to postpone any major decisions after discussing a draft Commerce Department report on the impact of auto imports with trade reps. However, the administration doesn’t have forever to make up its mind. Nor does its trading partners, which could be the point.  (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2018

Steel Worker

Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and a 10 percent tariff on foreign aluminum. Hoping to receive an exception, the Japanese auto lobby warned that the U.S. import tax would definitely inflate the price of models built by the companies it represents. That’s bad news.

However, the White House has already omitted its NAFTA partners from the tariffs, adding that it would consider further exceptions based on countries’ contributions to U.S. national security, military alliances, trading history, and how much they pay into strategic alliances like NATO.

While Japan is a longtime trading partner with the U.S., there currently exists a $69 billion deficit between the two countries. Trump also bemoaned Japan’s unwillingness to accept American imports. Still, the two have shared military alliances throughout the 20th century, with one ugly exception during World War II. They currently operate under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security and the U.S. currently considers the Japan one of its closest allies, despite it not being a NATO member — placing it in reasonably positive standing for tariff exceptions.  (Read More…)

By on November 28, 2017

Mike Pence

The automotive industry is wary of any changes that might be made in regard to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fortunately for them, little progress has been made during the last few months of negotiations. But that doesn’t create an assurance that changes aren’t still en route. So, manufacturers and suppliers have banded together via various trade groups to voice their opinion on how to best handle NAFTA.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has attempted to make itself appear friendly to the automotive business. Continuing these efforts, Vice President Mike Pence has met with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Fiat Chrysler’s Sergio Marchionne, Ford North America President Joe Hinrichs, and a handful of other top-tier auto executives. (Read More…)

By on November 16, 2017

us-capitol, public domain

A bipartisan group of over 70 members of the U.S. House of Representatives has asked the Trump administration to reconsider its North American Free Trade Agreement proposal on auto parts rules of origin. Seen as a sunset clause by Canada and Mexico that tweaks international agreements to lower the United States’ trade deficit, the rule has also received some serious blowback from domestic automakers. They’ve even used trade groups to craft awareness campaigns and reach out to congress, a decision that appears to be working.

Currently, NAFTA mandates at least 62.5 percent of the materials used in a car or light truck be sourced from North America in order to avoid tariffs. The Trump administration’s proposal would up that requirement to 85 percent, with 50 percent of the total being from the United States. (Read More…)

By on October 6, 2017

broken down jalopy

The United States is still waiting on a glut of senior appointments within agencies that affect the automotive industry. While the Environmental Protection Agency eventually got Scott Pruitt, many high-ranking positions remain vacant at the EPA and other U.S. regulatory groups. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is still missing an administrator, chief counselor, director for government affairs, chief financial officer, and one enforcement chief.

With so many holes in its staff, former NHTSA officials and consumer advocacy groups are worried the agency has been rendered ineffective — essentially stalled on important decisions and issues that need the right kind of signature. Eight months is a long time to wait for an appointment and the NHTSA was only just given a deputy administrator, after former executive director Jack Danielson’s promotion.  (Read More…)

By on June 2, 2017

Donald Trump, public domain

On Thursday, President Trump made the decision to ditch the Paris climate accord and the entire internet seemingly spent the next twelve hours calling it a misstep. Either the president possesses a hidden wisdom on the subject that nobody else can seem to fathom, or he has severely misjudged the public’s position on environmental issues. Calling the accord “unfair at the highest level to the United States,” Trump suggested the deal was detrimental to the country’s manufacturing efforts and gave other nations a financial advantage.

However, the instant feedback from the automotive industry did not appear to share his viewpoint. With nearly 200 other countries still adhering to the nonbinding Paris agreement, it’s almost as if Trump had forgotten car companies operate on a global stage. Both General Motors and Ford Motor Company issued statements in opposition to Trump’s decision.

“We believe climate change is real, and remain deeply committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our vehicles and our facilities,” announced Ford. “Our commitment to sustainability is why we’re investing so heavily in electrification and adding 13 new electrified vehicles to our lineup.” (Read More…)

By on April 5, 2017

white house on moving day
The Trump administration’s current plan for the Environmental Protection Agency budget removes nearly all funding for vehicle emissions testing. Proposed cuts to the EPA’s budget would eliminate 99 percent of the agency’s $48 million in funding for vehicle testing, shouldering automakers with increased fees to split the difference.

However, former head of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality Margo Oge is claiming that such a large cut would force the agency into “pretty much shutting down the testing lab” regardless of corporate contributions.  (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2017

President Donald Trump is having a pow-wow with General Motors chief executive Mary Barra, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and a slew of other top U.S. executives today. The business community finds itself increasingly divided over how to respond to certain policies, especially after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick quit the president’s advisory panel over an executive order that temporarily ceased travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Pressure from activists has forced numerous companies to take a public stance on the issue. Elon Musk in particular has begun to face harsh criticism for condemning the ban but continuing to work with the White House on business issues. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2017

Mark Fields

Ford Motor Company chief executive officer and doomsday prophet Mark Fields thinks one million American jobs will be placed in peril if the country’s current fuel economy standards aren’t made more flexible.

The alarming scenario was given by Fields to President Trump himself at last week’s private meeting of U.S. automakers at the White House.  (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2016

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announce "A Vision for High Speed Rail," April 16, 2009, Image: Chuck Kennedy/White House

The year is 2010. Hope and Change still lingers in the air. The water in Flint, Michigan is passably safe to drink. And Donald Trump doesn’t have a single pledged delegate to his name.

This year saw $8 billion from the $831 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) appropriated to dozens of so-called “high speed rail” projects across the country. The projects were said to be “shovel-ready” — and some were — but many are still ongoing, er, creating jobs today.

(Read More…)

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